That wooden hose tower attached to the back of the old Lodi City Hall\fire station at Main and Locust will be coming down soon, according to city officials. The tower was used for hanging and drying fire hoses back when it was an operating fire station.
That’s going waaay back, folks. Now, the tower has apparently detached itself from the main building by as many as five inches and is in danger of just falling over, the city says. They’ve hired Siegfried Engineering to conduct a structural assessment of the four-story high wooden tower, but concede the tower is coming down, one way or another.
The building was erected in 1912 and became the city’s first city hall, fire station and jail. The new City Hall was completed on Pine Street in 1928, but the building continued to serve as a fire station for many years after city offices moved out. The historic structure has sat largely abandoned for several decades, quietly rotting away. Pigeons have taken up roost inside. Currently, no one is allowed into the building without a hazmat suit because of the bird guano.
STILL OPEN: The Lodi Public Library has been closed for months — most of last year, in fact. But library operations continue with curbside service. Customers can reserve a title online or over the phone, then pick it up. When you come you must stay in your car and wear a mask, of course, while staff places your book order on a table. … However, the front of the library has been converted into a full time COVID-19 testing facility, with free tests being offered by appointment. Meanwhile, Library Director Anwan Baker has been assigned additional duties. He now oversees the Parks, Rec and Cultural Services department, serving as interim director. The department hasn’t had a permanent director since Jeff Hood retired in December 2019.
ENGLISH MAKEOVER: Work continues on the building that used to house Vine and Branches Christian Book Store, on Oak between School and Church. The Oxford Kitchen and Gastropub will be going in that space when work is completed. The owner is Narender “Neil” Ramarapu. He has another restaurant by the same name in Sunnyvale, which he describes as, “A modern-day gastropub serving fine food and drinks inspired by a London street market, with the enticing flavors of the Middle East, Southeast Asia, India and the United Kingdom.” The building will be transformed into an English style pub architecture. The restaurant will include outside seating along Oak and extend into the parking lot to the west.
NOW OPEN: City park picnic shelter rentals resumed March 1, according to city officials. The shelters have been essentially off-limits during the pandemic. But the State Department of Public Health now says such recreation areas are permitted to be used with a maximum of three households, or 25 people, for up to two hours. Seven parks in the city have shelter facilities and are available for rent. They include Lodi Lake, Emerson, Legion, Katzakian, Peterson, Salas, and Villa Fiore (south of Walmart) Parks. … If you’ve always wanted to be part of a walking group, a new one has formed that meets a few times a week in front of the boathouse at Lodi Lake. The group welcomes people of all fitness levels. Check out their Facebook page, “Lodi Friends Walking Group.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING: Have you ever looked at the “consent calendar” items that the city council normally batch-approved? There’s some interesting stuff in there. Here’s a sampling from last week’s council meeting: The council approved spending over $53,000 on ammunition for the police department. That’s a lot of firepower. The city is also planning to spend $50,000 on repairing the brick pavers on School Street. Some of the pavers have sunk or been raised by tree roots, the city says. The council also authorized spending over $63k installing and repairing handrails at the Grape Bowl. They also agreed to spend almost $700,000 upgrading the audio-visual and broadcast system gear in the city council chambers. The money to pay for it will come from its Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act (DIVCA) account, which is funded by a charge on your cable TV bill. The city also maintains something called a “protocol account,” which is used to throw parties and purchase miscellaneous items for city council members. A detailed report listing all expenditures is made quarterly. During the last three months about $581 has been spent on such items as a vase for departing council member Joanne Mounce ($154), iPad cases for council members ($131), a keyboard and mouse for new Council Members Khan and Hothi ($53), various plaques that were handed out during the council reorganization in December ($133), gift bags for “reorg gifts” ($34), certificate holders ($31), and business cards for Council Member Khan. The council also passed a resolution reaffirming the city’s “local emergency,” which grants the city manager greater authority and latitude for purchases.
MORE INFO: Here’s some additional info about the News-Sentinel carrier who died in a car accident a couple months ago while delivering her route. Sharon Simas apparently suffered a heart attack while driving and crashed into a pole near the intersection of Ham Lane and Lodi Avenue, according to Karl Welsbacher, who was one of Sharon’s customers and who checked further into the tragedy. He says there was also a lady riding in the back seat of Sharon’s car at the time of the accident, and she also reportedly died in the crash. A tragedy all the way around.
NATIVE SON: Last week we mentioned that Lodi native Bob Sternfels has been appointed the new global managing partner of consulting firm McKinsey & Co. That’s a big deal. Then we heard from family friend Robert Litts, who wanted us to remember that Sternfels’ family lineage runs deep in Lodi. Bob’s mother was Janet Bainbridge Sternfels, who died in 2008. Janet’s father — Bob’s grandfather — was Judge Robert Bainbridge, who served on the Lodi judicial bench for about 24 years during the ’50s-’70s. Janet’s mother Ellen Bainbridge was also an attorney. Judge Bainbridge died in 2007 at age 87. Litts says of Janet, “(She) was one of the smartest persons I’ve ever known. She was very modest about the fact that she was a major champion bridge player who played bridge with the likes of Omar Sharif, among many other champions.”
SIZE MATTERS: Stockton received $20 million. Lodi got nothing. That’s the score with the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which recently awarded grants to cities and counties across the nation. According to City Manager Steve Schwabauer, “Cities over 250k got direct allocations. The rest of us got left in the cold.” Schwabauer says, “We could theoretically get some relief in the form of assistance to renters and utility payers from the rent and utility program but it seems unlikely at this point as the county is prioritizing rent over utilities.” He says pending legislation calls for direct aid to cities but who knows if it will pass with any relief.
LAST LAUGH: Someone posted online, ““When the smog lifts in California, UCLA.” And this, “I’m terrified of elevators and I’m taking steps to avoid them.”
Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at email@example.com.